Tuesday, July 22, 2008

This is .... my best op-shop find

- and a catch-up on a 'This is ...' topic for which I was unable to upload photos a few weeks ago.

I've been lucky to find a few op shop gems over the years, including some vibrant vintage fabric (for about $2.50) and this wooden filing cabinet ($10):

Another much-loved item was bought from a second-hand store (rather than an op shop), but I'll sneak it in here anyway. It's a beautiful Federation-era* cabinet and wrtiting desk, which apparently still contained a collection of 1930s payslips and personal documents when it was found at an estate sale by the second-hand-shop's owner. Unfortunately this photo doesn't really do it justice; I'll replace it with a better one some day when I've cleared the space around it!

* oops - for overseas readers, this refers to the period around the first decade of the 1900s - perhaps similar to the British Edwardian era. The states of Australia became a federation in 1901, and particular architectural and design styles are associated with the period.

I think my all-time best op-shop find would have to be my Newnes Home Management Manual (Volume 1). It has no publication date but it's British and I think it's from the very early 50s, providing young women with all they need to know about fulfilling their biological imperative (as G's grandmother would say). At 752 pages long it packs a punch, is jam-packed with all kinds of advice, and I'm intrigued to know what was included in the second (and subsequent?) volumes. I can't cover all of its wonderful contents in this post but I've decided to include quotes and ideas from this book in future blog entries, which I'll tag 'Home Management'.

Here are just a few of the many treasures held within the pages of this delightful manual:

- a recipe for Prune Mould

- care of the food safe: "Once a week scrub out with a good soap; if bothered by flies, spray the inside of the larder or safe with a D.D.T. atomiser ..."

- illustrated guides to "making a beauty treatment out of domestic chores - housework for the figure"

- two pages of information about keeping a domestic goat

- an entire chapter titled 'Grow your own smokes', to encourage domestic tobacco production, including a little illustrative story which concludes: "His wife left him to get on with his pipe tobacco while she was busy making cigarettes for herself, and excellent in quality they were. The pair seemed very happy in the knowledge that they could not afford to smoke at all except by growing their own tobacco."

- a recipe for Beef Tea, the ingredients of which are:
1 lb. lean shin of beef
1 pint lukewarm water
pinch of salt


- suggestions for using a self-timing oven .... place the meat or fish for your evening meal in the oven in the morning. The timer will automatically switch the oven on in the evening so you don't have to think about it until it's ready. (Hello salmonella!)

- recipes for "drinks grown in your own garden", including parsnip wine ("like champagne"), nettle beer, potato wine, and celery wine.

- instructions to help you "learn to relax and vanquish worry"

While many of the articles are amusing and sometimes confusing, the book is also full of very practical advice on how to create a comfortable home - a wonderful insight into a lifestyle that contrasts dramatically with today's over-consuming, endlessly disposable culture.

The book also makes me think about how daunting it must have been for young women who lived with their parents until they married at around 17 or 18 years of age, then were expected to manage competently every aspect of their household and family. They would certainly have needed the help of books like this!


CurlyPops said...

Your filing cabinet and writing desk are beautiful...I love old wooden furniture that shows its age and has that lovely patina.
The home manual sounds like a fantastic read....expecially for a giggle. Can't wait for the next instalment, but I can't imagine anyone liking beef tea!

Jennifer said...

Funny -- I have a book of my grandmother's that's called something like "How to Live a Life of Luxury Beyond Your Means" that was about how to get by with nothing and still look glamorous! It is daunting, as you say, to think about how young women were expected to manage back in the day.

Sometime could you please be so kind as to explain "op shop"? I see that all the time but don't know exactly what it means -- is it like the US term "thrift shop," which designates a place (usually a charitable organization) that takes in donated items and sells them to make money for the organization?

Juddie said...

Thanks for your comments, Curlypops and Jennifer!

Jennifer - you guessed right.... Australian 'Op shops' (opportunity shops) are just like american thrift stores - most commonly run by charitable organisations, selling items that have been donated by the public.

In trendy urban areas it's becoming more difficult to find op-shop gems because private vintage shop owners buy lots of things from op shops cheaply to sell at a higher rprice in their own stores. Generally we find now that the op-shops in more remote country towns are the best bet for finding vintage treasures. Is it the same in North America?

... also ...

Related Posts with Thumbnails